A strange day here in the desert yesterday. First, a morning hailstorm gave this most summery of scenes a wintery feel. And later, even more bizarrely, it emerged that Colin Montgomerie could be persuaded to become the next Ryder Cup captain should Jose Maria Olazabal turn down the chance to lead Europe next year at Celtic Manor.
It had been believed that Montgomerie was a shoo-in for the captaincy in 2014 when the match takes place at Gleneagles, the course just up the road from his family home in Perthshire. But reports last night indicated that he has been urged to be ready to assume the role four years earlier in Wales.
At times like this it is normally wise to follow the old maxim that money talks and yesterday it indeed screamed that the Scot could be on the brink of a stunning appointment. Thousands poured on the 45-year-old in the wake of the three-hour meeting here on Tuesday night during which the players committee decided to make an announcement concerning Nick Faldo's successor in Dubai in a fortnight's time.
It is understood that if Olazabal wants it, then the position remains his, although the feeling is growing that the Spaniard is intent on having one last crack at making the team as a player after a horrendous spell of injury and illness. To many, Sandy Lyle would be the obvious choice if Ollie said no and that included Montgomerie, himself, who has been a vocal supporter of his fellow Scot.
But that was before he heard the level of hostility towards the 50-year-old at Tuesday's meeting. in the wake of the Faldo fiasco in Kentucky, Lyle is considered out of touch with the current crop of players and it could well be that Montgomerie was convinced that his time could be now and that it would be unwise to wait until he broke through the 50-barrier.
Certainly the level of secrecy which has existed since the meeting suggests there is something seismic in the offing and in golfing terms the rise of Captain Montgomerie would fit the bill. If nothing else, the whispers served to overshadow what was an enthralling first day of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
Oli Fisher highlighted his talent when a 67 took him to the upper reaches of this leaderboard, although afterwards the 20-year-old from Essex was forced to accept the inevitable comparisons with Rory McIlroy, his fellow precocious phenomenon.
While Fisher's progress since turning professional at 18-year-old has been little short of exceptional – top 60 in the Order of Merit on just his second season – that of McIlroy has been a few par fives beyond exceptional. In his 16 months among the paid ranks, the child star from the Belfast town of Holywood has become the youngest player ever to break in the world's top 40. It is fair to comment that the 19-year-old has stolen a march on his friend. "Golf is one of those games where it happens quicker for some people," said Fisher, who at 16 became the youngest player ever to play on the Walker Cup. "Rory's a great player and we all knew he was going to go out and burn it up straight away. Me, I'll just got to go my own way at my own pace."
His morning's work was definitely not snail-like. Armed with a short-game refined by his coaches over the winter break, Fisher fired six birdies around this impressive layout and as he did so managed to ignore the distraction of a two-hour suspension caused by that rarest things – a hailstorm in the desert. "I was on the fourth and the green turned white - just like that," he said. "It was freaky. I've never seen anything like it."
By the time McIlroy went out the sun was glaring down. Alas, only for so long; McIlroy managed to get in 13 holes before darkness fell. Yet as if to underline his "anything that Oli can do" propensity, he had strode to four-under, one behind Fisher and two of the pace set by the Swedes Johan Edfors and Mikael Lundberg.Reuse content